When those in early recovery get to residential treatment, they are often surprised by their limited access to added sugar. Many addiction rehab centers don’t offer unlimited amounts of sweets. In fact, some don’t offer any at all except on special occasions such as birthdays or treatment graduations.
Added sugar is the sugar found in candy bars and sodas as opposed to natural sugar found fruit and grains (which is good for you). Added sugar is known to be addictive, especially among those coming off of drugs or alcohol. Many in early recovery turn to sweets to replace the sugar they were used to from alcohol or try to use sugar to bring up depleted “feel good” chemicals from coming off drugs.
Unfortunately, eating too much sugar can prevent those in early recovery from actually letting recovery sink in because they are distracted by thoughts of eating or getting their next sugar fix. Addiction treatment centers try to keep such distractions to a minimum and want clients to be present in order to absorb the many therapeutic aspects of treatment.
Additionally, over consumption of sugar has been linked to depression, learning disorders and inhibited memory. This is because it can reduce the formation of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical responsible for helping people learn and form new memories.
In early recovery, learning and memory are extremely important. For example, remembering and utilizing the therapeutic tools learned in treatment is essential for relapse prevention. Furthermore, clients find that almost everything they do is new because it has been a long time since they have connected with others, gone out, or even showered without being high. Being able to learn from and absorb this new way of life is vital.
Low BDNF levels have also been linked to depression, which those in early recovery are vulnerable to anyway as their brains are balancing out after years of drug and alcohol abuse. It is essential to not let anything get in the way of the therapeutic interventions in early recovery that can lead to lifelong sobriety. The benefits of limiting sugar extend beyond early recovery, as many choose to keep their bodies and minds balanced by limiting added sugar throughout their lives. And many find that, just like with drugs and alcohol, over time they don’t miss it at all.